To

Ashok Choudhary

The Minister

Social Welfare Department

Government of Bihar

 

Sub : - Withdrawal of illegal termination of anganwadi workers in various district and withdrawal of unscientific OTP token verification system for THR in anganwadi centres

 

Sir,

The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) the biggest trade union federation of anganwadi workers and helpers in the country having its affiliates in 24 states and UTs including Bihar, would like to bring to your notice some serious grievances of the anganwadi workers and helpers of Bihar.

 

Illegal termination of anganwadi workers

First of all, many anganwadi workers and helpers have been illegally summarily terminated from service without even any show cause notice denying them all legal rights and even natural justice. I would like to bring to your notice a few cases in Navada and Aurangabad districts. Two workers Smt. Ushakumari, Mahudar East Centre, Code No. 1 and Smt. Anita Devi, Centre Rani Bazar East code No 35 project kauvakol, Navada District have been terminated by the District Programme Officer on 16 January 2021. Similarly, Smt Sushamakumari, centre tendua-3, code 20, Nabinagar project in Navada district has also been terminated from service. There are reports of many other anganwadi workers are being issued notices in various places. The reason cited for the termination in these cases is that they have interfered/failed/refused to get online verification of OTP (one Time Password) in the Take Home Ration (THR) distribution. Directives have been issued in different districts to summarily terminate workers who fail OTP online verification.

Most of the notices have mentioned the workers as union leaders of anganwadi workers and helpers and cited the opposition of the union against the OTP to substantiate the arguments for  termination. This is nothing but victimization of union activists. Ironically the workers are also alleged of non implementation of the Right to Food Act and Supreme Court directives on distribution of supplementary nutrition to the beneficiaries. These are factually incorrect and these workers have been in service for decades and have been effectively rendering their services.

While requesting you to immediately intervene in the matter to ensure the reinstatement of these workers, we also request you to immediately stop the implementation of the unscientific OTP verification system in the supply of THR which deprives the beneficiaries of their right to food .

Tughlaquiaan system of OTP verification for THR

Some of the recent administrative measures taken in ICDS, Bihar like the OTP verification of beneficiaries need to be termed as ‘tughlaquian’. These measures have made it almost impossible to ensure supply of supplementary nutrition to the beneficiaries.

Our union in Bihar, Bihar Rajya Anganwadi Sevika Sahayika Sangh has continuously representing to your government and the officials for the last two months about the problems they face with the introduction of OTP verification of beneficiaries.  The joint platform of the anganwadi unions has also written to the government in this regard. It is unfortunate that neither the minister nor any official has discussed the matter with the union or the joint platform.

It is beyond our understanding the necessity to introduce the OTP verification of beneficiaries in ICDS. While there is a full fledge system of physical verification of the supplementary nutrition as well as THR by various agencies – supervisors, elected panchayat members as well as community members, introduction of online verification is totally unnecessary.

The department itself has postponed the implementation twice of thrice due to technical failure. As per the department itself, on an average more than thirty to fifty percent OTPs cannot be verified. This deprives a huge number of beneficiaries of their food and the anganwadi workers have to bear the brunt of the beneficiaries.

As our union has already pointed out,

  1. The Quality of mobile phones of anganwadi workers are low. There is no provision for repair, No money paid for mobile data. In addition, in village areas of Bihar, there is seldom network available.
  2. Even the login password of the anganwadi workers do not function
  3. There are many beneficiaries who do not have mobile phones, there are people whose sim connection stopped working. There are joint families using a single mobile and therefore the system not working
  4. There are cases the beneficiaries do not receive OTP, other cases beneficiaries receiving OTP but could not get verified in the software.

It is ironical that since the system is not working, the OTPs are made available to the anganwadi workers by the officials and force them verify online! It is ridiculous to run such a system which does not have any purpose other than sabotaging the supply of nutrition.

With much regret we have to say that during the early months of lock down, Bihar government tried to push cash transfer and we were demanding the food distribution. Now, the unnecessary OTP verification will create problems for the beneficiaries and create doubts about the anganwadi workers. This is only being used to harass and target the anganwadi workers. Now, the Supreme Court has also directed the states to start the freshly cooked food distribution in anganwadi centres.

In this background, we request you to immediately intervene and

  1. Reinstate all anganwadi workers who have been victimized in the name OTP
  2. Withdraw the unscientific and unnecessary OTP
  3. Organise a meeting with anganwadi unions to discuss all their grievances and effective implementation of ICDS

 

With greetings,

A R Sindhu
General Secretary  

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